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Villagers rush to aid rural Alaska crash survivors

PTI | Last Updated: Sunday, December 1, 2013 - 11:33

Anchorage (US): Residents of a rural Alaska village reached survivors of a commuter plane crash two hours after the aircraft went down in freezing rain, authorities said.

The pilot and three passengers died in the crash of the single-engine turboprop Cessna 208. At least six passengers were transported for medical treatment. There was no report of a fire. Few other details, including the possible cause of the crash, are known, said National Transportation Safety Board investigator Clint Johnson.
"It`s very much in the preliminary stages at this point," he said yesterday.

The Hageland Aviation flight crashed around 6:30 pm 6.4 kilometres from the village of Saint Marys and rescuers reached the scene at 8:30 pm, he said.

Pilot Terry Hansen and passengers Rose Polty, Richard Polty and Wyatt Coffee, an infant, died in the crash, Alaska State Troopers said. The survivors included Melanie Coffee, Pauline Johnson, Kylan Johnson, Tonya Lawrence, Garrett Moses and Shannon Lawrence. Their ages and hometowns were not immediately available.

The initial count of people on board was unclear because at least one was a lap child, Johnson said.

Saint Marys, like scores of other Alaska villages, is off the state road system. People routinely use small aircraft to reach regional hubs where they can catch jets to complete trips to Anchorage or other cities.

The Cessna left Bethel at 5:40 pm and was scheduled for a stop in Mountain Village before continuing on to Saint Marys, a village of about 500 about 755 kilometres west of Anchorage.

Megan Peters, a spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers, said the airplane would have been flying in freezing rain with 1.6 kilometres of visibility and a 90-meter ceiling.

Hageland Aviation, part of the Era Alaska group that includes Era Aviation, said the company received word at 6:34 pm that Flight 1453 had crashed, said Hageland President Jim Hickerson.

Saint Marys village public safety officer Fred Lamont Jr told the Anchorage Daily News that a passenger on the plane, Melanie Coffee, called the village`s on-call health aide from the crash site. Villagers launched a search by snowmobile and on foot, he said.

The 40 to 50 people searching could not immediately spot the wrecked airplane despite speaking to survivors. They were hampered by fog.

First Published: Sunday, December 1, 2013 - 11:33

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